I already wrote an article about our weekend trip to Portland, but our dinner deserves it’s own post. Tyla mentioned she was hungry for pizza so I headed to Yelp to find a place with good pizza that was also very family friendly. Hopworks Brewery showed up and I thought it could be the perfect dinner as long as Tyla didn’t mind celebrating our anniversary at a brewery. She was game so we went for it.

Absolutely incredible. This was one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve ever had. First of all, there were plenty of kids around and they even offered us a seat next to a play area (which we declined since Elijah isn’t really old enough to enjoy it yet.) Even though it was 6pm on a Saturday night, we were seated after only a 5-10 minute wait. Tyla enjoyed her pizza and I loved my habanero burger. The service was excellent and my 12 beer sampler platter was fantastic! Hopworks specializes in organic beer. That’s not normally something I filter my selection by, but whether it was organic or not, there were some delicious beers in the rotation. If I had to choose a winner, it would be the Velvet ESB. I’ll be on the hunt to find it locally.

Portland produces a lot of fantastic beer. I don’t know where Hopworks officially ranks on that scale, but they are tops in my book. More research is needed though.

I’ve done quite a bit of DIY security work on our house and it’s built up into a system that I’m proud of. I haven't blogged about it for obvious reasons, but one of the pieces is a bunch of security cameras. I recently added one more camera by the garage and it’s so cool that I had to share some info about it. The camera itself is the same model that I use most other places, but the difference is that I added an IR LED light that is supposed to be good for 200-300ft. This means that at night, the entire front of my house is now lit up light the mid-day sun, and best of all, it’s invisible to the naked eye. Here’s a screenshot with and without the IR light.


I know these screenshots are small, but when someone walks in front of my house or comes out of the path in the woods, I can see tons of detail and it’s all automatically recorded to my server.

If you’re ever interested in some DIY security at your house, let me know. I’m happy to chat about this and share what I’ve learned. It drives me nuts that I can’t blog more about it, but I really don’t feel like sharing the details of it (though even knowing probably wouldn’t help a thief too much if I did everything correctly.)

We’ve had our Escape for over a year now and we have just over 11,000 miles on it. I thought it was time for an update on our experiences.

The more I drive the car, the more I like it. Maybe it’s because I drive an economy car but I’m regularly impressed by the smooth and quiet ride of the Escape. The car had a bunch of features on it that I never would have thought I’d really want but some of them have grown on me. The biggest one is probably the memory seats and mirrors. I’m so much taller than Tyla that switching drivers takes quite a while. For a family vehicle that we both drive regularly, this feature is awesome. The power lift gate has been very handy too. With one arm full of baby and the other carrying bags, we just swipe our foot under the back bumper and the rear hatch opens automatically. That hands free goodness also lets us unlock the doors and start the car, all without digging out a key.

I put our Ford My Touch/Sync/Navigation in the “meh” category. It’s nice to have it all integrated and the big touch screen is good for displaying lots of info. The audio system has a bunch of inputs (radio, Sirius, USB, SD, etc) which is nice, but the actual user interface of the whole thing feels sluggish. Why can’t we just have a head unit that is basically an Android/Apple/Windows tablet? This interface already feels a big sluggish and out-of-date. What’s it going to feel like in 10 years? While I love having a nav system built-in to the car, I don’t know if I’d shell out the extra wad of cash to get this whole system again, especially when I think how it could be done better with a tablet at a fraction of the cost.

It has been in the shop for one issue which was covered under warranty. The coolant bypass valve failed which made the check engine light come on. They diagnosed that quickly and while it was in the shop, the parts came in for a recall. We had them keep the car and do it all at once. Our car was the first time they had run through the fairly involved recall repair and they ended up a part short which added more time. Once it was all done, they had kept our car for a week but they gave us a loaner so it wasn’t a huge issue.

I’m biased because my uncle works for Ford and pretty much everyone in my family drives a Ford. I was one of the oddballs who stepped out of the Ford family and went for a Subaru. But after driving this car, and after reading about what Alan Mulally has done at Ford in the past years, I’m pretty confident that our next purchase will be a Ford. The Subaru has just over 100K on it and is still going strong so if all goes well it will be a few years before we have to buy something new. But if I was buying a new car today, I’d probably go for a Focus as my commuter car for work. I’d love to get a big F150 but it’s hard to justify the cost at this point.

Tyla, Elijah and I made a quick trip to Portland for a little getaway to celebrate our fourth anniversary. It was our first real family vacation and boy is it different with a baby! Between his naps on Saturday, we took him for his first swim in a pool which he loved, walked along the river and through the huge market which Tyla loved, and then had dinner at a brewery which I loved. Something for everyone! Actually, I think we all enjoyed all of the activities. The weather was beautiful so it was hard to complain.

The hotel left something to be desired as it had more road noise than any place I’ve ever stayed before. The room came with a white noise machine and we had that cranked up along with Elijah’s white noise machine and I could STILL hear the cars. Elijah thought it was great though. He spent a lot of time standing in the window watching the cars go by.

On Sunday morning we visited Pastor Johnson’s church. He was our vicar and youth group leader way back when I was in high school and I went to his church in Minneapolis a bit too when I was working there. It was great to catch up with him again and see all of his energy being poured into the Portland area. The trip back went pretty smoothly with Elijah sleeping about half the way. He woke up right next to an exit with a Dairy Queen. How could resist?

I hear lots of people say how much they love Portland. I don’t know that I’ll ever love any city. I’d much prefer a huge tract of land with nobody else in sight. But as far as cities go, Portland is nice. It’s like Seattle but even more eccentric. They have some beautiful parks, great food trucks, and awesome beer. The city layout was frustrating. Even with two GPS’s going I managed to make a wrong turn on just about every drive. I understand how that evolves on the east coast where cities are really old, but on the west coast there’s not much of an excuse for it.

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Everything is turning green around here. Tulips are already blooming and most of the trees have leaves. This picture from spring of 1982 seemed appropriate for this Throwback Thursday. Mom is helping me inspect the plants coming up out of the dirt.

The general media has picked up on a huge bug that rocked the tech world this week. I’m sure it’s partially because it has such a great name and logo. But what is Heartbleed and how does it affect you?

This isn’t a virus or malware that affects your computer. It’s a bug in some very critical code that is run by a lot of web servers. Basically, it gives out somewhat random chunks of computer memory to anyone who asks for it. That memory usually contains gibberish but sometimes it will contain things like user passwords or keys to the encryption of all the traffic going in and out of the server. The webcomic xkcd has a very simple explanation of the bug.

There are a bunch of things that need to happen to fix the hole. First the server admins need to patch their systems, get new encryption keys, and replace their SSL certificate. Once that happens, you can complete the final piece of the puzzle by changing your password. Some websites are being proactive and telling you when they’re ready for you to change your passwords. Others are being more quiet about it.

This whole thing has been *gasp* overhyped by the media. Yes, it’s a potentially big vulnerability but the odds of someone exploiting you are low, the patch is relatively quick and easy, and there’s evidence that nobody launched a widespread attack using this vulnerability before it was announced. That being said, updating your passwords is still a good idea. There are various lists around the internet that tell you which sites were affected, but this is one a pretty good resource. They are updating it regularly and telling you when it’s time to change your password (if you need to change your password at all.)

If you’re changing all these passwords but you aren’t using a password manager, consider getting started with something like LastPass.com. It’s free and easy. If you’re already a LastPass member, run their security checker tool. They’ll tell you which of your passwords need to be changed. LastPass was affected by Heartbleed too, but because they encrypt all of their traffic even underneath the SSL encryption, there’s no chance that any of the LastPass data was exploited.

So don’t fret about this too much, but do make sure you’re changing passwords as needed.

About a month ago I took some time and reorganized the peg board above my workbench. Sounds exciting, right? The odd thing is that I did it on a Saturday and on Sunday morning when I told Tim what I had done he said “I’m doing that exact same thing this afternoon!”

The peg board mostly just holds tools like you’d normally expect but I got two special pieces for it too. One is a paper towel holder and the other is a metal basket.  I wouldn’t recommend the paper towel holder because it was pretty difficult to install (which is ridiculous on a peg board), but the metal basket is great and I might get one or two more. It’s a convenient place to hold pencils, ear plugs, headphones, etc.

As part of my effort to improve the workbench, I also added a shelf below the main working area. It gives me more places to keep tools. Generally, I like the shelf but I’ve hit my knee on it a couple times while sitting on my stool. I might need a little redesign or a piece of foam to go over the edge.

What you can’t see in this photo is that I also have a place to mount a bench vise that I got for Christmas. I drilled holes on the left side where the scroll saw is currently sitting. Since I don’t use the vise every day, it sits on the shelf under the bench.

I’ve been waiting until my workbench is clean to take this photo, but you know what? It’s a work bench and it’s generally covered in a project. That’s what it’s for!

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